The Irish priest who founded Boys Town orphanage has been officially declared a servant of God as the cause for his sainthood progresses.
Father Edward J. Flanagan was a Catholic priest, born in Roscommon in 1886. Flanagan emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1904, and was ordained as a priest in 1912. He established the Omaha orphanage Father Flanagan's Boys Home in 1917. It was announced in February that Omaha, Nebraska, archdiocese was putting him forward for canonization.
The official process began on March 17, when Most Reverend George J. Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha opened the cause for sainthood at Immaculate Conception Church, the site of Father Flanagan’s tomb at Boys Town.
“The cause for canonization is officially open and Father Flanagan has been declared a Servant of God,” Steven Wolf, President of the Father Flanagan League Society of Devotion, said in an email:
“We hope have this first examination of his life, heroic virtue and sanctity completed by 2014.
“If Rome finds this examination without error, Servant of God Flanagan will be then declared Venerable,” Wolf added.
The process for sainthood originates in the archdiocese, then proceeds to the Congregation of the Causes of Saints in Rome and to the Pope. In order to be qualified as a saint, at least two miracles associated with the person must have occurred after his or her death.
“We have alleged miracles reported to us and we are sifting through the details to see if the information warrants a deeper examination by a medical tribunal at the Vatican,” Wolf said.
Wolf first met the Irish priest when he lived at Boys Town during his teenage years.
"I tell people that Father Flanagan basically saved me twice," Wolf, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha, told the Catholic Voice of Omaha.
"Maybe the second one is a work in progress, but certainly as a kid who needed help, (Boys Town) helped save my mortal hide."
"I just feel like I don't know if I could ever do enough to say 'thank you' to Father Flanagan and the people at Boys Town," Wolf added.
"There are no bad boys,” Flanagan famously said during his time working with youth. “There is only bad environment, bad training, bad example, bad thinking."
At the request of President Truman, Fr Flanagan toured Europe following WWII to discuss the orphaned children of the war. During his tour, he died of a heart attack in Berlin in 1948. His body was laid to rest at the chapel at Boys Town.
For more information or updates, log onto The Father Flanagan League, Society of Division.
Watch the trailer for the 1938 Boys Town movie below, which was inspired by Father Flanagan’s work.